Monday, May 05, 2008

We Must Cultivate Our Garden

Today, I received, as a slightly belated birthday gift, a donation from my friend, Susanne, in Switzerland, a donation for $540 (ten times my present age) with the note, "Il faut cultiver notre jardin"
Although I recognize a few words from the French, including Garden, I went to an online translator, which produced the result, "We must cultivate our garden." Now I have definitely received less than perfect translations from the translator, but accurate or not, it IS perfect... We must cultivate our garden – our interior gardens and our exterior gardens.
A garden is a wonderful metaphor for so much of what we experience, and are, as life! And from personal experience, I can say and see, that both attention and neglect have very powerful consequences. For the past few years, we have totally neglected our 7 acres and consequently it has become overrun with weeds, particularly blackberry vines. Even cutting them down is only a small step because the hidden roots will continue to sprout unless we are ever vigilant and keep on top of them.
In the beginning, it appears there are so many steps to be taken and the mind can be overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all – cut the weeds, watch for new weeds, cultivate and prepare the ground, choose new plants, and plant the seeds, water them, watch for sprouts, discriminate new plant sprouts from weed sprouts (very important), watch for critters which will attack or eat your plants, and so on.
But eventually, you begin to see progress. You still have a long way to go. In fact, it is basically an endless process. But still, it is very encouraging (en-heartening) and gives a sense of deep satisfaction as we begin to see we are finally on the right path.
As things progress, two things happen – First is that we notice it is becoming easier. The really difficult part is over and the encouraging progress makes the journey more enjoyable. Secondly, we have created new patterns. The pattern or habit of neglect that we have inadvertently created is replaced by a new pattern or habit of cultivating and vigilance. It has become our natural state to be in and of the garden.
However, one small warning: No matter how easy things appear to have become, we must never give up our vigilance. There is a famous garden saying, "One year to seed, seven years to weed." This is not a metaphor only, but a truism. If even one year you allow weeds to go to seed, those seeds can sprout in your garden even seven years later. In other words, a lot of hard work goes down the drain through a short amount of negligence. It's like you can't stand still. Even though our tendency is to sit back and relax, to rest on our laurels, congratulate ourselves for a job well done – to do so means you may well find yourself up to your nose in blackberries again. As the saying goes, "Pride cometh before a fall," and true humility is one of the great ornaments of the cultivator of any garden.
But eventually, that habit of vigilance is established, the garden is cultivated, and beautiful and abundant fruits are recognized from those labors. In fact, the labors are more or less gone, as they have become so much the background nature of who you are that they are no longer labors, and the minimal amount of weeding is simply a part of what is.
And even though, in the beginning, when you attempt to survey the entire garden, and all you see is weeds, remember that the journey of a thousand miles (or a thousand weeds) begins with the first step (cut), and that it must be started sometime (Now), and it must begin somewhere (Here), and it is either started, or the weeds just continue to grow and grow and grow and grow and ...........
And though it is tempting to think that we can "just be," you may find that you are up to your ass in weeds, and you would do well to remember that ...
We Must Cultivate Our Garden.